Category Archives: Guides

rED slideWhen Ben Goldacre mentioned Journal Clubs in his keynote speech at researchED 2013, my husband Howard, who works for the NHS, became very enthusiastic about the opportunity for me to introduce something like that at my school. Journal Club became part of my pitch to become Research Lead and I’ve had a series of regular meetings that are gaining support.

After Sam Sims’ theory based presentation at the September national researchED conference, I wondered whether a more practical session would have a place. The December Leads Network day confirmed that it might and I realised that if I was going to make the suggestion, I’d better be prepared to do it myself. That is how I ended up running a Journal Club with a bunch of Research Leads and other interested parties at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

2015-03-14 13.19.09

Most of the session was given to the discussion of a paper as practical experience of taking part in a Journal Club.  I used my brief presentation to outline a few basics and how I run my club in school. Along with some additional points that came from talking with people afterwards, that’s what I’ll outline here. If you fancy looking at the presentation, it’s here – researchEd Journal Club

What is a Journal Club?

A journal club is essentially a book club for reading research. Widely used in medical settings, journal clubs form part of professional training and CPD for more senior members of staff. This is an informal and social way to discuss new research that may otherwise sit unread after publication, keeps practitioners up to date and acts as an opportunity to develop critical analysis skills.

Why start a Journal Club?

A significant theme at the December Leads’ Network was about how we can familiarise staff in school with research. I think journal clubs are a great way to start engaging with research, facilitate evidence based practice and get people used to how it all looks in its raw form. It may not be that everyone has the time to hunt down research papers, but having the chance to develop skills that mean they have the choice can be valuable. This is especially the case where staff have studied subjects where research in this format isn’t touched.

Journal clubs are a way for staff to keep up to date, improve morale and network in ways they might not during a normal school day. In addition to this, you don’t need to have a large number of people to start off, so unlike some other routes into research engagement, you can adapt your club to meet the needs of your members and timetable.

Who is Journal Club for?

I’m a firm believer that journal clubs are for staff at all levels and across the whole school. I have members from leadership to TA and everyone contributes to our meetings. I’m lucky enough that our school is small enough that if they wanted, we could probably accommodate everyone if they chose to come, but I realise that this isn’t necessarily practical for everyone. I think there’s the opportunity for clubs in a range of settings –  key stage, department, around a particular school focus, within a group of schools (federation/ teaching school alliance etc.), and I also suggested that it might be useful as part of the ‘expert input’ element of Lesson Study.

If you’re more confident in working with research, Dr Gary Jones (@DrGaryJones) has written more information about critical analysis and evidence based practice in a series of blog posts, including introducing journal clubs. To be honest, the way we run journal club is very similar to some INSET activities I’ve taken part in; given some information and asked to evaluate its worth and whether we could apply it in school. Those were attended by all staff, journal club can be too!

How to run a Journal Club

Space and time is something to think about, and not just in a Timelord way. Finding somewhere with room for everyone and not picking a Monday or Friday afternoon is my advice. In my experience, illness, unexpected meetings, detentions, will all get in the way at some point and you just have to keep going. I’ve seen varying advice about how often to hold a meeting. I’m trying to go for one a month at the moment. Some have been closer together than others, but I think if you could only manage one a half term, that would be great. Definitions of a successful journal club being 50% of staff, weekly for more than two years are perhaps a bit ambitious, but go for it if you want!

There are various ways you can find something to read in your club. I’ll write about access in more detail further down, but one of the joys of journal club is that you can go for anything. I have so far gone with a variety of different topics in our’s. We all work across a 7-16 school and work with a primary model (one teacher to a class for most subjects). This means we can look at maths, behaviour, literacy, PE and keep everyone interested. You may want to select a theme to build a knowledge base, or fit a department. It’s completely up to you.

A crucial rule for our journal club meetings is that they are NOT a policy meeting. If we think something we’re looking at is worth trying out, we need a separate meeting for that. This means we keep to the task of analysing the text and don’t get bogged down in the details of how we’ll get it going in school before we’ve even decided if the evidence is strong enough.

You need to have a designated leader or facilitator for your club. Someone to keep up the enthusiasm, send out reminders, provide access to the chosen paper, write a summary of the paper (bit more detail than the abstract), and keep your discussion on track. This is also the person who needs to provide the biscuits. You will learn to appreciate the importance of the biscuits.

fingersStructure of a meeting

  • Biscuits (I have actual evidence for this).
  • Read out summary of paper to familiarise everyone with key points.
  • Discuss and analyse paper – use guide questions to keep on track.
  • Pick next paper (I tend to choose two abstracts and print them on different coloured paper for easy reference).
  • Disseminate notes (I type up our notes and whack them on the shared drive).

Things that might go wrong

  • People think it’ll be too hard
  • No one reads the paper
  • No one turns up
  • Too many people turn up
  • No one wants to go home
  • You forget the biscuits

The only one I’ve not had is the bit about too many people. The important thing is that it really can be for everyone and keep plugging away. There is always the Co-Op for emergency biscuits.

Access to Research

Types of research

  • Academic papers
  • Blog posts
  • researchEd briefings
  • Self published

The joy of journal clubs is that you can use anything you like. If you were conducting a formal literature review then you’d have to worry about things like bias etc. With a journal club, this actually gives you something to discuss. Briefings and blog posts are a great place to start, but a quick warning, they tend to be written in a more balanced way so they might not be as easy to argue for/against.

Where to find it

  • Open access – will stay available
  • Free access – available as part of a promotion probably, limited time
  • Subscription/ Membership – often a cheaper way of subscribing to a single journal

There are lots of ways to find things to read for free (links below). Increasing amounts of research funded by the Research Councils UK is being made available as open access. There is a timetable for this to reach 100% eventually. Education Arena‘s promotions are a wonder for Journal Club so have a look there.

Links

researchEd Journal Club

Effects of an emotional literacy intervention for students identified with bullying behaviour. (Knowler & Frederickson, 2013)

I picked this as an Open Access paper that people could look at in advance. It covered a topic that was fairly wide-reaching, had a few statistics but was suitable for all levels and was hopefully a relevant place to start.

  • Pre-read paper
  • Read out summary – rED summary
  • Discuss using sheet to guide/ questions on screen – rED record sheet
  • Decide on ‘next’ article
  • Feedback
  • Biscuits

Things to think about

  • What type of literature?
  • What are the hypotheses based on?
  • What is being claimed?
  • Are the claims supported?
  • Agree/Disagree
  • Contradictions/ Competing hypotheses
  • Ethical issues/ bias
  • Relevance to own setting
  • Further research/ changes

It seemed like the people who attended got something out of the practical experience and had lunch not been on the horizon I think the discussions could’ve carried on for longer. There were some interesting comments around peer-nomination and the ethics of labeling pupils as bullies, and I know there was much more mentioned than this! Perhaps there is room on the researchED forum for something journal clubby? I enjoyed putting myself out of my comfort zone for a bit and would love to do it again, so who knows, maybe I will.

References

The basic concept of journal clubs is fairly straight forward – read paper; discuss. There is a wealth of research on journal clubs in medical settings and some of the ones I’ve looked at are here. Most importantly, of course, evidence in favour of biscuits.

Alguire, PC (1998) ‘A review of journal clubs in postgraduate medical education.’ Journal of General Internal Medicine 13(5), 347-53

Denehy, J. (2004) ‘Starting a Journal Club’ The Journal of School Nursing 20(4), 187-188

Golde, C. M. (2007) Signature Pedagogies in Doctoral Education: Are They Adaptable for the Preparation of Education Researchers? Educational Researcher 36(6), 344-351

Linzer, M. (1987) ‘The journal club and medical education: over one hundred years of unrecorded history’ Postgraduate Medical Journal 63, 475-478

Mazuryk M, Daeninck P, Neumann CM and Bruera E (2002) ‘Daily journal club: an education tool in palliative care.’ Palliative Medicine 16(1), 57-61

**BISCUIT ALERT**

Sidorov, J. (1995) ‘How are internal medicine residency journal clubs organized, and what makes them successful?’ Archives of Internal Medicine. 155(11), 1193-1197

 

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I love a good open top bus tour. If we’re mooching round the internet for somewhere to visit, at home or abroad, package holiday or DIY, one of the first things I’ll do is check for a bus tour. I should add that I love other tours too – trains, boats, guided tours all have their place, but I really love a bus tour.  Boat tours are a very close second and actually, I think I like the open topped buses most because it’s like being at sea.

I reckon my love of the bus tour is sufficient to enable me to provide a guide to how to get the most out of them. So here we are.

tour 02

There are lots of different bus tour operators but City Sightseeing Tours are a familiar sight in lots of places and are definitely the company we’ve toured with most. I shall list my favourites.

  • Cambridge
  • Edinburgh
  • Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • Copenhagen
  • Barcelona
  • Oxford

They are my favourites for different reasons, which I’ll go into in a bit. Generally speaking, doing a bus tour is a brilliant way to get to know a new place or city. Tours take you to all the main attractions, with a commentary and are hop-on, hop, off so you can use them to get to any of the places you want to go. Most often you get a 24 hour ticket and sometimes there are longer options. Some tours have a selection of routes.

Our strategy is pretty much to fit the tour in during the first couple of days. It’s best not to go for an early start – remember, this is a 24 hour ticket. If you race to get there for 9:30 you don’t get anything the next day. Although some buses have tour 03human guides, most tours have recorded commentary and you get some free headphones from the driver when you buy your ticket. The ticket has to last so keep that safe but the headphones can be replaced on each bus so don’t worry if they break or you lose them. The recorded commentaries are good value with some cracking incidental music and a vast array of idioms.  Some tours have a children’s commentary from Horrible Histories but they’re pretty much the normal one with added poo and fart noises.

We always go round the whole circuit once without getting off. We get to settle down, look at the map and listen to the whole commentary. This is a good technique for familiarising yourself with the layout of a new city and working out where everything is in relation to each other.  It is also a good way to work out when to get the best photo opportunities. Buses tend to slow down for key attractions but not always and it’s good to learn where traffic lights are and perhaps more importantly, which side of the bus to sit on. Another reason to take a bus tour is for the different angle you get to take pictures from.

Once you’ve completed a circuit, decide where you want to go. Remember, you’ve got the next morning too but it’s a good idea to do things that are further out first and work your way in. If you don’t get it all done and still want to visit some of the places you can probably do it on foot or by public transport. Quite often we’ve found that seeing somewhere from the bus and getting a picture is enough and we don’t feel we need to explore it more. Of course it’s always a good idea to leave things for the next time you visit too! You may have discounts for local attractions or shops/restaurants with your bus ticket so have a look at the leaflet to help you decide. If you timed your ticket buying right (or starting time, you can buy tickets online) then you should find that you can get a full circuit in the next day, possibly with a visit. As long as you get on the bus with time on your ticket, you can get back to where you need to be!

So. Why are the ones above my favourites? I shall let you know.

Cambridge

tour camb

Not actually the most rockin’ of all the tours we’ve done but for the one thing that I have missed with all the other tours we’ve done. One of the stops is at a Park and Ride. Might seem a small thing, but when you’re paying a lot for a bus ride it’s a pain to have to spend extra money and time parking the car. Quite a lot of tours have a train station stop but this was brilliant especially on day 2.

Edinburgh

tour edin

Five different tours (not all City Sightseeing). It cost more for a ticket that got you all the tours, but it didn’t break the bank and was really worth it. Some of the routes overlapped with major attractions but it was a good orientation technique and one of the routes took us out as far as The Royal Yacht Britannia which is quite a way. We were there for the Festival so we did our fair share of hill climbing, but it’s always nice to be driven up and down a city!

Stratford-Upon-Avon

tour strat

Our most recent tour so I can give you prices and everything!  We opted for the £30 each tickets. With this we got 24 hours of bus, a boat tour on the Avon and three of the five Shakespeare houses. The price seems steep but there is an option without houses and that still gets you the boat tour. It’s definitely a money saver if you’re going to do the houses anyway and again, a couple are a few miles out of the centre. Another positive is that the boat ticket didn’t have to be used in the same day as the bus ticket was bought and the house tickets last for twelve months.

In addition to all this, in the peak tourist season there is a second tour ‘Heart of Warwickshire’ runs and this takes you much further afield. The 48 hour ticket includes both tours and I think that would be a great option.

Copenhagen

tour copen

We had a 48 hour ticket here and there are two routes included (Summer only). We really did use it to learn where everything was and as a form of transport. Copenhagen doesn’t have a metro system like Barcelona or Paris and there’s quite a bit of stuff spread out. I’ve been to Copenhagen a few times as I have a friend near Malmö just over the bridge in Sweden but we spent a week here for the first time and really got to see the city well. The bus tour gave us lots of ideas of places to go that the guide books and maps hadn’t so I really do recommend it.

As a side note, if you do visit Copenhagen, the one thing that I tell everyone to do if nothing else is the Netto boat tour. Netto really is Scandinavian for cheap and this tour is half the price of the other boat tours but takes you all round the canals, with live commentary. Promise me you’ll try it even if you don’t go anywhere near a City Sightseeing bus.

Barcelona

tour 01

Three routes this time! Can’t remember if we did a 24-er or 48-er but this really was one where we felt we’d seen things from the bus and didn’t need to trek through 40 degree Barcelona to take a picture from ground level. A good, comprehensive tour of the city from Gaudi to the football stadium and down to the beach. Sun screen is definitely a must for one like this but with the wind in your hair and history in your ear, it’s a great way to cool down and there are worse ways to travel.

Oxford

tour oxf

Last for a mention, the Oxford tour really only gets on the list because it was a brilliant holiday and I loved the whole long weekend of it! It was hot, it was Easter and we were away for our wedding anniversary. Add to that the fact I was in Oxford and new Lewis was on the telly at the same time it was amazing! I made Howard recreate a scene where someone vomited near the Bodleian.  It was a great tour too of course, but I think they all are.

There are quite a few more tours we’ve done and I like them all. I love that you can’t be anything but an unashamed tourist on an open topped bus. I’ve got the route planned out for one of Nottingham if anyone’s interested in taking up the franchise.

If you’ve not done one, give it a go but remember my super top tips for bus touring wonders:

  • Time your start well to make full use of ticket.
  • Go round once to get your bearings – maybe once on each side of the bus…
  • Have a look for discount deals in the ticket options or on the leaflet.
  • Make sure to put sun cream on if there’s a hint of Sun (don’t forget hair partings)
  • Don’t use umbrellas – they blow inside out at the slowest of speeds. Go downstairs if you’re a wuss.
  • Take your own headphones if you’re fussy (Howard is but I think the cheap tinny sound adds to the experience).
  • Charge your camera and wildly point and click!